Become a Tooling Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a tooling engineer. Research the education requirements, certification information, and experience required for starting a career in tooling engineering.

Should I Become a Tooling Engineer?

Tooling engineers use their backgrounds in mechanics and materials to help design tools for manufacturing equipment and parts. Tooling engineers usually work in an office, like other mechanical engineers, but they may need to travel to worksites or manufacturing facilities to observe firsthand the need for a new tool or how a tool they designed is working.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree minimum
Degree Field Machine tool technology
Experience 5 years
Licensure and Certification ADDA Certification
Salary $83,060 (Median annual salary for mechanical engineers, May 2014)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Consider Postsecondary Education Options

Certificate and associate's degree programs in machine tool technology and related fields offer courses in blueprint reading, machinery operation and metalworking. Programs may also teach students safety principles and regulations. Once students have satisfied basic requirements, they may move on to more advanced topics like mechanical applications, control theory and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines.

Some employers may prefer job seekers who have completed a bachelor's degree in fields such as mechanical engineering or manufacturing engineering technology. After completing core courses in advanced mathematics and physics, students may cover topics ranging from fluid mechanics to manufacturing processes. Additionally, students are generally required to complete lab courses in which they use computer-aid design (CAD) software to develop 2D and 3D designs of assembly lines or machinery.

Step 2: Earn Design Certifications

Job postings in March 2011 on indicated that some employers require candidates to have experience with mechanical design and CAD software. Candidates wishing to show their aptitude in design and software may consider voluntary certifications. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) designates applicants who pass a mechanical exam with a score of 75% or better as Certified Drafters ( ADDA certification lasts five years and tooling engineers can recertify by submitting proof of employment for at least three years.

Additionally, aspiring tooling engineers may seek product certifications from vendors like Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes. These vendors sell products that help tooling engineers sketch, modify and reproduce materials and costs for design projects. Certification from these organizations generally requires completing a qualifying exam.

Step 3: Attain a Graduate Certificate

Aspiring tooling engineers wishing to gain additional knowledge of computer control systems and CNC machinery may enroll in a graduate certificate program. These programs typically offer specific training for tooling engineers on machine materials, control and automation, as well as opportunities to work with CNC machines in lab courses.

Step 4: Find a Job

The same job search for tooling engineers on in March 2011 showed that employers generally prefer candidates who have at least five years of experience in their respective industry. For example, tool die manufacturers may favor job seekers who have experience developing die-castings or moldings. Other manufacturers may require candidates with factory machinery troubleshooting experience. Employers may also consider candidates who have worked with specific materials like engineering grade plastics.

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